I DECIDED that I needed to take a break from the biggest cities while driving, because it takes so long getting in and out of them and it’s much easier to get off the Interstate and take a rest stop in more rural areas.
So, I did not even think about going into Dallas.
I had a friend named Aubray, who lived in the small city of Wichita Falls, Texas (not the same as Wichita in Kansas). So, I went to go and catch up with her. I had planned to stay for two nights there.
The last time I’d seen Aubray, she was eating cheap dumplings in a rundown side street restaurant in China. We had got talking and I found her an interesting and inspiring young woman. Aubray was in her twenties and a born-again Christian, very open minded and accepting of people. I loved her interpretation of the Bible, her values and how she treated people. Catching up again in Wichita Falls in late 2016, we discussed the elections and politics in general. She had some friends with her too, and it was interesting to hear what this younger generation thought. They felt that the race relations had got a lot worse recently, and the recession were still affecting a lot of people and towns. Those were some of the reasons why a lot of them were voting Republican this time around. Her friend Kacy told us how she had bought into Obamacare and how the premium cost had increased significantly in the last few years.
Aubray had recently brought a house for quite a reasonable sum of money. She was renovating it and looking at buying something in the inner city as well.
She worked for a company selling organic coffee beans to cafés around Wichita Falls. She would travel over to Oklahoma and sell to stores there too. I hadn’t realised how close Wichita Falls was to the border with Oklahoma, it was only about thirty minutes to the border and then another two hours to Oklahoma City.
Aubray, her friend Kacy and another friend named Rachel and I went out to a Mexican restaurant for fajitas. When I ordered, they all laughed because I pronounced it wrong, forgetting the j was an h (more or less)! The meal was amazing. The girls ordered extra jalapeños and chili chocolate.
After that they said they’d take me to one of the last drive-through liquor stores, for the novelty of it I guess. This is a dying institution in view of current social disapproval of drinking and driving, even if in theory you are supposed to wait till you get home. I bought beer, and then we went back to Aubray’s house, which she was renovating.
Aubray was an interesting and quirky character. In China, she had told me how she went through a rough patch in her life and that she was going to write a book about it. I thought good on her. She would have a lot of good things to say to people and she is just someone I think everyone likes. Aubray was very open-minded. She told me she didn’t care what sexual preferences people had, whether they were gay or straight. She didn’t think they should be told they would go to hell for it and she certainly wasn’t going to lecture people on it: no one was perfect so who are we to judge?
Everyone and anyone should be accepted into the church, loved and not judged. I admired her courage and bravery, which she had oodles of.
The next day, they brought me along with them to see the ‘world’s littlest skyscraper’, more formally the Newby-McMahon Building. The guy who drew the plans did them in inches not feet. He got done for fraud, but let off because his investors should have noticed that the plans said inches and not feet before handing over the money. It was a cute little building of red brick and stone built in 1919, and I got a few snaps.
We visited a food market in the inner city: they had some brilliant displays. So, I got some photos of those too. Wichita Falls is going through a little bit of a revival at the moment — tourism is taking off.
Wichita Falls only has about 100,000 residents and, yes it does have some nice waterfalls in the Wichita River. Apparently, in the 1800s, the original falls were destroyed by floods, so the city built a new one, which allows the river to flow over steps made on boulders and rock.
We got talking about Obamacare again and it was interesting to hear Aubray’s friends’ views on Obamacare and how they felt a lot of middle-class Americans were missing out due to the so-called ‘subsidy cliff’ under which, between 2014 and 2020, the subsidies for insurance fell away once an individual started earning more than about $50,000 a year, quite often in ways that made people worse off for earning more: in some cases a lot worse off, which is why it is called the ‘cliff’. A person might jump from paying less than ten per cent of their income to paying more than twenty per cent if their income goes up from $51,000 a year to $52,000 a year currently. I had no idea that this ridiculous element was built into the system: no wonder it had so many critics. Fortunately, the subsidy cliff was abolished by Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the third major Covid relief bill to be passed since the outbreak of the pandemic. Though then again, the ARP only abolishes the subsidy cliff for the next two years.
Aubray also told me she has her gun license and carried a gun around with her, because it made her feel safe.
I left after the food market and drove all the way back to Houston. It was quite a nice sunny day. I had hoped to have stopped in Dallas after all, but I failed to take the relevant turnoff due to my non-performing GPS and wasn’t too keen on trying any complicated backtracking manoeuvres due to my lack of confidence about driving on the right or as New Zealanders call it, the wrong side of the road. I ended up staying in Woodlands just outside of Houston, pretty much where I had started.
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